10th Mountain veteran, Aspen pioneer
John Litchfield, a 10th Mountain Division veteran who helped build Aspen into a premier resort, died June 10 at age 93.
Born in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and raised in Auburn, Litchfield skied from early childhood. He became a successful four-way skier, winning in all events. While skiing for Dartmouth, he was named to the first U.S. Alpine Ski Team, and raced in the Pan American Games in Farellones, Chile and at the FIS World Championships. During the 1938-39 season Litchfield roomed with Dick Durrance. He graduated Dartmouth in 1939 with a degree in economics.
Litchfield was named to the 1940 Olympic team, but when World War II broke out in the Fall of 1939, cancelling the games, he joined the Sun Valley Ski School. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted and attended officer training in Georgia, then joined the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Hale. Capt. Litchfield earned a Bronze Star during the Italian campaign.
Immediately after the war Litchfield helped to found the Aspen Ski School, working as co-director with Friedl Pfeifer and Percy Rideout. During the summer of 1947, with partner Tom Kelleher, he renovated a saloon and opened it as the Red Onion restaurant. The following winter he accepted Otto Lang’s invitation to rejoin the Sun Valley ski school as top instructor. When Lange moved to Hollywood in 1950, Litchfield succeeded him as Sun Valley’s first non-Austrian ski school director. Among other accomplishments, Litchfield was Jimmy Stewart’s skiing double for the movie Mortal Storm.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Litchfield was recalled to active duty and he served as an intelligence officer at the Pentagon. Upon moving to Washington he sold the Red Onion to John Sihler. After the war, Litchfield finally put his economics degree to work, as sales and marketing director for Outboard Marine Corp., manufacturer of Johnson and Evinrude motors and Lawn Boy mowers.
Litchfield settled in Denver in 1975 to work as a real estate broker and race the Masters circuit. He quit racing in 1987, at age 70.
John Litchfield was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Hall of Fame in 2009. He is also an honored member of the Maine and Colorado Ski Halls of Fame.